Much like the endless squats and lunges we do as standard ski conditioning each fall before the lifts start to spin and ski season commences, a similar approach should apply to preparing oneself for the annual FOOD & WINE Classic that kicks off summer in Aspen. After many years of participating in the festival, I have compiled some tips to consider leading up the annual affair:

PRE-GAME

Build up your tolerance leading up to the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen. Wine Expert, Mark Oldman recommends that you:

“Become a student of smells. Focus on mindfully inhaling aromas people often find in wine, such as various fruits, grass, vanilla, chocolate, pepper, tobacco - it will help you visualize these elements in your wine at the festival. Hone your skills at wine bars and restaurants that serve flights of wine, whereby a number of different varietals of wines are poured. Sip them one at a time so you can compare.There's nothing like tasting wines side by side to help you figure out elements that you like and those that you don't. While I generally don't recommend spitting out your wine, designated drivers should be prepared to do so.”

Hydration Activation

In the weeks leading up to the grand affair, start the hydration process. Drink around 10 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Add some mint, lemon, lime, orange slices to make it interesting. During the fest: make sure to stay hydrated with water and other non-alcoholic beverages in between your vinous sprees. Stock up and take full advantage of the bottled water sponsor. Tip back anything non-alcoholic to keep your system flowing. Pro Tip. Pick yourself up a bottle of RESQWATER Proactive Recovery which will help you detox, recover and perform throughout the long weekend.

What To Wear

Top Tips on How to Dress For Two Grand Tastings, Three Seminars and Six Parties in Between
1) Spring Shop-a-thon: Be ahead of the game and start shopping months in advance for your quiver of sundresses and skirts for the ladies; khaki shorts and fun, pastel shirts for the guys.
2) Be A Bag Lady: Have an attractive tote or backpack filled with supplies that will keep you looking fresh from a 9am seminar to the wee hour parties.
3) SCCAT: Stash Clothing Conveniently Around Town - at front desks of hotels, in parked cars, in trusted locations that are convenient and safe. Sometimes a breeze or rains kicks in on your white party dress. Sometimes there is a dribble of wine or pork caritas run down your sleeve – always have back up outfits on hand.
4) So Shoe Me: Shoes can make or break your good time! In the aforementioned tote, you may even want to bring a backup pair of shoes to switch it up. Never try to “break in” a new pair of shoes on this celebratory weekend.
Women: Flats or wedges are easiest to maneuver in the grass of the grand tasting tents with a segue onto the cobblestone streets of town. These picks also support long periods of standing and walking from event to event. Top Tip: After a long winter in ski boots, be sure to come to the weekend with a fresh pedicure.
5) SUNSCREEN: It is bound to be sunny out there and don’t forget to protect your skin from SPF. Supergoop will be onsite providing you with the protection you need.

Be Seminar Smart

Study the list of seminars and read up on the bios of the speakers prior to the big weekend. Pick a few seminars that pique your interest, but don’t over program yourself. The best personalities have the best seminars. Entertainment value is key to keeping one engaged during this busy, content-filled weekend. Don’t be afraid to bring a small pocket-sized journal and take notes. Jotting down some key nuggets of wisdom you pick up, as everything can go a bit foggy after all the wine tasting starts up again. It is nice to have a “take away” of knowledge, besides that unwelcome hang over, at the close of this festive weekend.

Put the “Food” in Food & Wine

Always eat – even more than three squares a day on this special weekend! But don’t restrict yourself by making dinner reservations ahead of time for the nights during the busy Food and Wine weekend. You won’t want to tear yourself away from the fun parties to go to a crowded restaurant with maxed out service. While the grand tasting tents don’t have a ton of food, stock up at the parties or make carbs a priority to soak up the booze and fill you up. Hit up the Ajax Tavern for some truffle fries on the patio to soak up some of that grape juice.

NAVAGATING POINT A TO POINT B

Hike up Aspen Mountain (take the 15 minute Silver Queen gondola ride down to save your knees) at least once before the fest gets underway – that way walking around the tent or from one end of town to the next will be cake walk. Living in Aspen, you can’t always rely on Uber, Lyft or car service amenities offered in bigger cities – but you can utilize:
- The Aspen Downtowner – Pre-festival, I recommend that you download the app for a tip based, high end golf cart ride that whisks passengers around Aspen’s core. downtowner.app.link/ride
- Have High Mountain Taxi plugged into your phone: 970-925-TAXI

PARTY INVITATION CULTIVATION

If you invite people to parties, they will invite you back. It’s that easy! The art of getting on lists or stumbling upon “it” parties is all about who you know. Extend your offers prior to the shotgun start of the Classic on Thursday evening. My favorite parties are usually in the spaces that I’ve never been before – say, a white Victorian home on the west end of town that has been transformed into the “Riesling House,” or a liquor brand I’ve never heard of before, showing off its goods in a posh apartment above the Isis Theater, with a stunning view of Aspen’s signature peachblow sandstone architecture and the vibrant green glow of Aspen mountain as the backdrop. Bring your posse and make your own party wherever you go. Don’t neglect to sit back and survey the scene (see people-watching above). As my Dad always said, when traveling in Europe,“Don’t jet off to see the Eiffel tower and then dash over to the Berlin wall. Sit at a café and take in the surroundings and get to know the people where you are.”

People-watching As An Art

Practice people-watching! Chilling out is good practice and takes skill and a zen approach. During the fest, you will want to sit somewhere on the Mill Street mall, to people-watch and rehydrate. Watching wined-up folks depart the grand tasting area is always amusing and gives you time to rethink your own personal drinking and walking strategy. Also - after drinking wine from vintners' booths all day, properly sitting down and being served an ice-cold beer or a casual cocktail will taste so good! Chilling out and switching to a different elixir is a great way to switch up your palette and catch your second wind after a day filled with wine-sipping.

Mountain LIVING

Check weather forecast for rain and even snow. Have rain boots and a dressier raincoat with a hood on hand. Sunhats, visors, sunglasses – all are a must as Colorado is known to get over 300 days of sunshine a year! Keep small sample sized sunscreens, aspirin, handy wipes on hand.

Time Off

My last word of advice is to plan ahead and take Monday off, especially if this is your first Food & Wine weekend -- or even if it is your twentieth – always a good call to have a buffer day to return to the normal, working world! A rejuvenating yoga class at Aspen Shakti might even be the ticket to getting the toxins out and your sanity back. Pro tip: Aspen Shakti’s Mountaintop yoga starts up Monday after Food & Wine — on June 18 at 10:30 am, every weekday throughout summer. Take this rejuvenating yoga class outside in the fresh air to help detoxify.

Published June 2018
Lea Tucker
Lea Tucker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Prior to launching her own creative firm, Lea Tucker earned her chops managing international public relations for the Aspen Skiing Company for 9 years. When she’s not building creative communication campaigns for her clients, Lea can be found playing in the great outdoors: skiing, hiking, camping and en plein air watercolor painting. Lea also dabbles as a wildflower identifier, gourmet-backpacking chef, beachcomber, reader and writer.

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